The 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year is on the move. Sources tell Fire Confidential that Austin Berry has been traded to the Philadelphia Union in exchange for allocation money. The trade announcement will be made pending league approval. The move presumably adds budget space which would enable the Fire to increase Mike Magee's salary over the next two years of his contract. The Daily Herald reported last night that Magee had begun to hold out of camp pending a renegotiation of his existing deal.
The acquisition of Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni last month created depth and competition at center back and it always seemed likely that something would go down in terms of a trade at some point. That point may have come sooner and under different circumstances than the Fire would have liked. Berry's age and salary in comparison to Bakary Soumare, Hurtado, and Ianni made him the Fire's most marketable commodity for a deal in MLS circles. According to MLSPU's latest report Berry earned $78,425.00 in guaranteed compensation last season and that certainly made him attractive to most MLS clubs.
While the amount of allocation received in exchange for Berry is likely to never be published, the Fire are at or near being "capped out" after acquiring Benji Joya and are still hoping to cut a loan deal for Tottenham midfielder Grant Ward. Increasing Magee's salary, signing Ward, and keeping Joya probably would not have been possible without trading an asset in exchange for allocation dollars. Berry would have netted the highest return and depth at center back made him the most sought after player available in a trade.
Frank Yallop and Brian Bliss can't be too happy with the timing of the hold out considering Magee has missed time away from the club due to UMSNT training camp and other commitments with a few days of training in Brandenton sandwiched in between. Although the Fire have not acknowledged the hold out, an ultimatum two weeks before the season starts is certainly the best possible negotiating period for Magee and his agent Richard Motzkin but it puts the club in the difficult position of having to do what they did today in order to keep Magee happy going forward. By the same token, Magee will now need to come close to the same success he had last year in order to justify the increase.
The deal to restructure Magee's contract, which has two years remaining after signing a new pact with Los Angeles last winter seems likely to be done now but it doesn't come without paying a price elsewhere. That price was the loss of a young defender with big potential.
It's finally official. Federico Puppo and the Fire have mutually agreed to terminate his contract. This means a settlement was reached on the remaining year of his deal and the Fire now don't have to worry about Puppo's cost hitting the budget this season.